AJ Brimson made a compelling claim for a Queensland Maroons jersey as the Titans walloped the Knights 36-6 at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday night.
Brimson’s 95-metre sprint through the middle of the Knights defence from a kick in the second half, where he left Kalyn Ponga clutching at air, showcased the Titans fullback's extraordinary speed and acceleration.
He soon followed that up with a zig-zag effort from 20 metres out where he beat five Knights defenders with short bursts of speed and dazzling footwork.
The Maroons will consider Brimson as a bench utility at the very least with the 22-year-old confirming his status as one of the game’s brightest prospects.
“I have said since I got here that I love AJ. He is my favourite player,” a delighted Titans coach Holbrook grinned after the win.
Match: Titans v Knights
Round 20 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
"I saw glimpses of him in the pre-season but we just had to get his back right. I just had a go at him for being selfish and not playing until half the year was done.
"If he played earlier we are playing next week. He is that good a player and he showed it again tonight."
Five-eighth Ash Taylor also had a stellar game and scored two tries, the second a 70-metre run in the second half from a movement that started on his own 10-metre line.
After the match, Fox Sports showed footage of Titans player Tyrone Peachey claiming to referee Chris Sutton that he was racially abused by a Knights players during the match.
AJ Brimson is untouchable
Sutton repeatedly asked Peachey if he wished to lodge a formal complaint, but Peachey declined.
The Knights will play the Rabbitohs in a knockout final in Sydney next week but it was the Titans playing like a top-eight side as they notched their fifth win in a row for the first time since 2010.
Newcastle bench forward Jacob Saifiti was put on report for a crusher tackle on Young Tonumaipea and faces a nervous wait for the match review committee’s verdict.
The Knights were woeful and will need a quick form reversal if they are to trouble the Rabbitohs.
The win was the Titans' first over a top-eight side in 2020 and confirmed Holbrook's side will finish in ninth position after claiming the wooden spoon last season.
The rebirth of Taylor as a game-breaker for the Titans has been a highlight of their season and the classy five-eighth started and finished a superb 60-metre try in just the second minute.
Proctor scores as the Titans continue to put on a show
Taylor’s cut-out pass put Brian Kelly away down the left and winger Treymain Spry chimed in to find an eager Taylor backing up on the inside.
The Knights had two tries disallowed by the NRL Bunker to Mitch Pearce, for a knock-on by Aidan Guerra contesting a kick in the lead-up, and to Edrick Lee for putting his foot into touch.
Newcastle’s handling errors multiplied and Titans hooker Mitch Rein took advantage from dummy-half as he ducked under two Knights defenders to score under the sticks and give the home side a 12-0 lead after 24 minutes.
The Knights did scramble well in defence to keep themselves in the game and Lee showcased his juggling skills as he scored in the left corner. Mason Lino converted and the visitors were right back in it.
The Titans were not done and after Spry leapt in the air over the touchline to tap an errant Jamal Fogarty pass back infield Kelly still had plenty to do.
Brimson gives Ponga a taste of his own medicine
The strong-as-an-ox centre beat four Knights defenders in a rampage to the tryline to give the Gold Coast a 16-6 half-time lead.
Brimson’s desperation in defence saved another near try for Pearce after a Lee chip and chase.
From that moment Brimson, Taylor and Spry put the foot down and smoked the Knights with their speed, footwork and agility.
Kelly creating tries out of nowhere
After Brimson’s two dazzlers and Taylor’s runaway effort, Spry raced 70 metres to put Kevin Proctor away and give the Titans a 36-6 lead.
Brimson’s performance was the talking point as he notched his 13th line break and seventh try in just nine games since returning from a back fracture.
The Titans have fans and former fans signing up their memberships for next year to watch a side that looks set to play entertaining, tough and winning football in 2021, just as they finished this season against the Knights.
"It was awesome. I am so happy for the playing group. We all know we have been playing well of late but to that was fantastic," Holbrook said.
"I’d love to be playing next week but we didn’t do well enough at the start of the year.
"It was just important that we did what we did the back end of the year and that will give us some real momentum going into next year."